Hoppa yfir valmynd

Thirty-Third Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Statement by Birgir Hrafn Búason, Director (International Law),
Directorate for Legal and Executive Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs

SPLOS 33rd session, 15 June 2022, Agenda item 14

Reports of the SG under Article 319 (general debate)

Madame President.
I would like to start by congratulating the newly elected members of ITLOS, and no less importantly, to thank all the highly qualified candidates for making themselves available. On that note, I would also like to use this opportunity to thank you all for your kind support during yesterday’s election.

My delegation also thanks the Secretary General for the informative report that this agenda item refers to.

In December last year, Iceland was delighted to join the global community in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the remarkable achievement that is UNCLOS. Our constitution of the ocean, within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. As we have often reiterated, such a success, and its continued effectiveness should not be taken for granted.

Madame President.
This year we are able to celebrate another achievement. Through constructive engagement, delegations were finally able to conclude the text of a new agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, usually referred to as BBNJ, and we look forward to participating in its adoption next week.

We believe that the new BBNJ agreement will be an important addition to our ocean tapestry and provides us with necessary tools to achieve our common objectives, some of which have now been set out in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity last December.

Madame President.
A month ago, we participated in the resumed Review Conference of the UN Fish Stocks Agreement here in NY. What my delegation took away from that meeting is that positive steps have been taken, towards sustainable management of fish stocks, since the last conference in 2016, and many important issues are on the right track. That being said, there is still much to be done, and a third of the world's fish stocks remain over-fished.
Two positive developments regarding the health and sustainability of our ocean, which we believe important to highlight, are the commencement of the negotiations on a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, as well as the conclusion of the WTO Agreement on harmful fisheries subsidies.
Last year was “the super year of the Ocean. A lot has happened, and it is clear that we as States Parties need to adapt to a changing reality and an evolving regulatory framework. We need to prepare, both unilaterally and through close cooperation within various international bodies and frameworks, so that we can all meet our joint objectives and provide the action that our ocean so desperately needs.

Madame President.
Iceland would like to warmly thank Kenya and Portugal for the excellent organization of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon last summer. Following this success, we very much welcome the decision of the General Assembly that the next UN Ocean Conference will be co-hosted by Costa Rica and France. As a sign of the importance Iceland attaches to the Ocean and law of the sea, we participated in Lisbon at the highest level of government. We look forward to coming together with the extended Ocean family again in Nice in 2025 – and we emphasize that the UN Ocean Conference is without doubt the most important international conference on the Ocean and SDG14. It is a conference mandated by the General Assembly, where we all participate on an equal footing, united by a common ambition to sustainably manage the Ocean, tackle the grave challenges it faces and make the most of its potential.

Madame President .
As we sit here at the meeting of the States Parties, our colleagues in Bonn have been discussing ocean aspects of climate change. The two are closely interlinked in many different ways. Furthermore, greenhouse gas emissions not only lead to climate change, but to ocean acidification as well. In the cold, Arctic waters around Iceland, ocean acidification is happening faster than the global average. It is a serious threat to biodiversity in the Ocean, that in and of itself is a reason to end the use of fossil fuels.

Now that humanity is at a point where both mitigation and adaptation to climate change becomes ever more pressing, and the Sustainable Development Goals have reached halfway point in time, Iceland believes that greater attention can be given to food sustainably sourced from the Ocean. Often referred to as blue food, it is a low carbon-intensity, nutritious source of food that provides a vital source of nutrition for more than 3 billion people worldwide and livelihoods for hundreds of millions. Iceland has the honour of Chairing the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition; a multi-stakeholder Coalition that promotes the realization of the full potential of blue food in order to end malnutrition and build nature-positive, equitable and resilient food systems.

Madame President.
Sea level rise is another major threat that carbon emissions and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to. This threat is going nowhere, even if humanity manages to quit the use of fossil fuels in the next few years. As Iceland has stated before, we are confident that in the context of UNCLOS, solutions will be found - even if it is challenging due to that this problem was largely unknown at the time UNCLOS was negotiated. We closely follow developments on this topic, both in terms of state practice as well as the continued work of the International Law Commission on sea level rise. Importantly, small island developing states and others in particularly vulnerable positions, should not carry the burden of a situation they have done the least to contribute to.

Madame President.
Last but not least, we would like to thank all of those who engaged this week in the discussions on the conditions of service of the members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. For the first time, there seems to be a general sense that something needs to be done and that we are moving towards a solution. This is an extremely positive development, and I thank my colleagues for their open-mindedness and flexibility.

We need to build on this momentum and jointly move towards a sustainable long-term solution.

I thank you.


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